Touka Cosens

Sifu Touka Cosens & meThis post is dedicated to a special man: my Jado Kuin Do instructor, mentor and friend Touka Cosens. Since I started practicing Jado back in March 2008 this man has been a constant guiding force in my life for which I am indebted to him.  Why am I writing this now? Well today Touka has stepped down as an instructor in Jado Kuin Do and is off travelling the world. For now at least, there will be a great gap in Jado which cannot easily be filled.

When I started studying Jado, Touka was a 2nd tag Brown Belt.  He ran his martial arts classes like no-one else I have trained with before or since.; he has that innate ability to bring out the best in people whilst keeping them motivated to push just a little bit harder and be the best version of themselves that they can. Countless have and do train with him, many Jado instructors have trained under him, and many of us have continued to train with him as we have progressed from white belt, to black belt, to instructors and through the levels. Touka’s constant and consistent training coupled with his wicked sense of humour has been the reason we have trained for so long and with such enjoyment.

On a personal note Touka has always been there for me, not just in martial arts, but through my divorce when things were very tough, through injury and of course in training.  I’ve enjoyed one to one training too when I have felt slightly behind the class, especially important when you live outside the Northamptonshire hub of Jado. He is a totally awesome instructor and individual, the likes of which you probably only meet once in a lifetime. I can’t quite imagine the world of Jado Kuin Do without him there.

But I do wish him well and for every success in his travels and hope that he comes back stronger, wiser and even funnier!  I hope, beyond hope, that he returns to the world of Jado soon – he will be very much missed by me and so, so many others.  We love you man.  Mark

5 reasons why studying a martial art is the key to life changing fitness

Mark Owen-Ward Jado Kuin Do Instructor

There are two strong health themes running in the media at the moment. One is the need to live a healthier life to cope with the raft of illnesses dogging current and future generations and the other is Alzheimer’s disease and the adverse effect on life quality of this disease and other dementias. So we want to live longer but not increase the risk of dementia. So what do we do when we understand the risks but are bored of gyms? Why not try something different? Why not try a martial art?

It’s different

Unlike a typical fitness class, a martial art has an outcome other than just fitness. It’s a progressive, structured form of learning with regular gradings and markers of your progress. You gain fitness and mobility while studying new techniques both alone and with partners. Achieving a black belt is a big deal and is not easily earned – it is an excellent goal to keep you focused on long-term training.

It’s not a team sport but it is social

A lot of those that avoid the gym also dislike team sports. Of course there is nothing wrong with team sports but they do not suit everyone. A martial art is primarily an activity that focuses on your own development. But you share the journey with others during the class and there is a social element to the shared journey that can lead to the development of lifelong friendships.

It’s not just about the physical

Many sports and fitness classes are completely focused on the physical. Martial arts develop mental power as well. There is nothing like a round of sparring to focus the mind to deal with a live situation and put your learning into practice!

Learning a martial art may trigger a level of learning that you haven’t encountered since school days and the practical elements feel difficult to start with. You may think that you are uncoordinated, or unfit, or have poor balance but all of these can be learned regardless of age. The challenge is in accepting your limitations and accepting that the process can help you learn how to overcome or remove those limitations.

Everyone starts as a beginner

When you start a new martial art you feel like a beginner. But everyone starts at this point; even the 6th degree Black Belt started as a “non-grade”. A martial art is a practice; there is no end goal though there will be plenty of targets along the way. When I achieved my first Black Belt and went to my first class after passing, I felt like a beginner again; it was only at this point that I appreciated the true scale of what was possible and how learning what is possible could easily keep me busy for life! I try and hang onto that beginners mind at every class that I attend so I don’t miss the learning.

It keeps you young

Lots of martial arts students are young and so often you will be training with those who are both younger than you and yet senior (a higher grade). This is an excellent environment for keeping the mind open and engaged with people of all ages and abilities and learning that skill doesn’t come with age, but with experience and application. Aging, in itself, doesn’t necessarily make you more experienced, but trying out new things does, and trying new things also keeps you young.

To conclude

Everyone’s journey to a martial art is different and personal. If you haven’t experienced a martial art before (or even if you have) or if you think you’re too old (I was 50 when I earned my first Black Belt) think again and try it out; you have nothing to lose except old age!

3 tips for making Autumn fitter and healthier!

get fit in autumn

get fit in autumnAutumn is a great time of year to get your exercise regime into gear.  You are far more likely to succeed in your fitness, sporting or weight loss goals if you start now before the run up to Christmas and all the parties and excesses that can get in the way of you achieving your targets.  Getting into a regime now is far more likely to succeed in the long term than waiting until New Year to start (and stop) the new you programme.

Start small

One of the problems of New Year resolutions is the scale of the promises we make. Large, bold and sometimes public we often regret the size of our ambition.  Far better to start small.  We know that sharing with supporting friends and family can be motivating – it can be the opposite if the scale is too big. So try changing just one thing in your like in the health-fitness spectrum and see if you can keep it up for 21 days.  For example, cut out the breakfast croissant or swap a sugary latte for a black americano and just see how you go.  If you succeed then sure, tell people about it

Keep the first change to yourself

As I mentioned before, sharing resolutions is supposed to garner support.  But if the resolution is too big, our supportive friends and their banter can underpin our good intentions, and being friends they wont make us feel bad but perhaps point out that something was “never going to happen”.  So we need to practice a couple of things on our own to bring confidence to our ability to change. So pick one thing that you want to change, not too big, and give yourself 21 days to put this new habit into practice.  The first couple of days are the hardest – you might have a false start but thats OK.

Write a journal

Keep a record in your diary or on your phone.  I use Evernote to keep track of my habit changes and put in a date entry and a sentence or two.  By journal I do not mean a huge, time-consuming, verbose diary.  It’s simply a quick note to yourself – you might include a statement about how you feel.  If it’s been a difficult day write that down – it can really bring comfort to read these notes back to yourself later on to underpin your efforts, your confidence and your sheer ability to take control of your life, one habit at a time.

In the end that’s all there is to it. After 21 days hopefully your practicing will imbed as a new habit and your need to track and journal how you’re doing may no longer be necessary; it’s now simply what you do (or no longer think about doing). So start the next one.  Of course, you may well be able to start your next change before the end of the 21 days – that is OK too but watch out for running too many changes at once – give yourself space to bed things in so they become unconscious habits and then progress from there!


Try the uncomfortable

5km st albans run

It’s normal human behaviour to shy away from the things that make us uncomfortable.  For as long as I can remember, for me that has been running.  I have tried a few times to run and have always managed to injure myself, normally by going at it too hard, too fast and not caring for my body along the way.

But as a personal trainer, I really should be able to take the same care of myself as I do my clients.  So I’m trying again and this time I’m doing it properly.  I have steadily increased my running distance and have worn proper shoes.  Chasing a time is not something that is too pressing on my mind – getting round without injury is the goal. I have been highly motivated by Rich Roll’s podcast – if you are interested in health and wellbeing or running I highly recommend his podcast.

I’m not doing fundraising specifically for this my first run – I have joined Parkinson’s UK though as my adopted charity. The St Albans half-marathon is a popular event and I look forward to next year when I will attempt the full race. For now I will settle for running 5km on Sunday, probably in the rain and enjoying a bit of discomfort for a while.

This run is only 5km but it is my first race and I know there are many out there running their first races this year as there are every year. Good luck to all those running, wheel-chairing and walking on Sunday!

Personal Training Spring offer


The summer is coming! If you think you would benefit from some one to one personal training now’s the time to try it out. My Spring special offer is a 25% discount on your first pack of personal training sessions if you start before the end of May 2016. For example a pack of 10 PT sessions normally costs £400 off-peak, that’s reduced under the offer to £300. For a small supplement you can even train with a friend if that’s your preference and save even more!

You can find more information about personal training here or get in touch by phone on 07545 464086 or via the contact page.

Day 21 – 30 day kickstart

Keep going or reset if necessary

So we are three weeks through the first month of 2016. There’s a lot of sickness around and you may or may not be succeeding with your plan.  But don’t worry its OK not to succeed first time.  The trick is not to throw in the towel and give up completely: just push the reset button.  Grab a coffee, a sheet of paper and a pen and write down what’s worked and what hasn’t. Rewrite some of those goals and ambitions, perhaps with a dose more realism, and keep the targets small, bite-size, and achievable and get back on that horse.

Some dietary ground rules

I haven’t specified much in terms of diet as there is so much confusion out there and competing attention with the latest this or that. I post on instagram what I’m eating as I go if I think its interesting but the basic principles are these:

  • eat real food – its not normally in a packet
  • eat one ingredient foods (as above – if it has more than one ingredient it’s a product)
  • eat 3-4 times per day
  • drink your weight in kilograms x 0.033 litres of water per day (from a glass)
  • eat organic where possible, eat local where possible
  • eat meat or fish, fresh vegetables and fruit, eggs, nuts and seed, with a little cream and unsalted butter
  • try a bulletproof coffee as breakfast occasionally
  • design your meals, write a list, shop to the list, eat to your plan
  • eat fats, all fats except trans-fats and polyunsaturates and poor quality fats.
  • avoid all white carbs, sugar, gluten filled grains, beer
  • if you need a drink, stick to wine, a glass or two, and at least 3 nights off per week

That’s it really. Not enough for a diet book really but everything you need is there. If its not on the list, don’t eat it. What most diet books is provide creativity around recipes – and there are plenty of those around.  I will list a load of these in a future post with links to Amazon if you want some ideas.


Eat better and try out these rules for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

January update

Many of you bought a pass for body conditioning classes at the start of the year and it’s good to see so many of you training with real effort. I know that some of you have been affected by a range of throat and chest infections and I hope that those clear soon.  Perhaps the colder weather will actually be a help!

The picture above is of our new Saturday location in Harpenden.  I know a few of you have braved it down there but we do have room for a few more.  I’m limiting the number to 12 whilst we are confined indoors as the space is smaller than the Thursday/Friday morning Scouts Hut that we use in St Albans.  Come the better weather we will be outside in the training ground and will be able to cope with a much larger group.  But do come down and try it out on any Saturday at 9am.

We also have the new Friday class.  This runs at 9:30am and so is the perfect time for a post-school run work out.  Please do let any friends know about this one if you think it might be relevant to them.  We had 7 attendees at the first session – it’s a less intense session than the Thursday night class for example so especially relevant for those returning to exercise.

Finally, I have reintroduced the 25-session pass as a permanent addition to the range of passes available to purchase. The price is still very cost effective averaging £6 per session and only slightly more expensive than the New Year offer at £150 per pass.

If there is anything else you’d like to see or hear about, please let me know – Spring is not too far away!

Day 11 – 30 day kickstart


Try A Different Approach

When we’ve tried every diet and exercise programme and nothing is working sometimes we need to try something completely different.  This sounds obvious doesn’t it and yet we often don’t follow this approach – we doggedly follow the path we’ve trodden many times before “I’m going to run the London Marathon”, “I’m not drinking in January”, “I’m going to have a six-pack this year”, “I’m going to lose 3 stone”… Where is the fun in all this? Notice how solitary and self-focused these sorts of punishing promises can be.

What we should be doing is something that we enjoy – that can be exercise, but it isn’t often dieting and it certain rarely comes from setting wild goals and failing to meet them, again.  But when we find something we enjoy, that can be the motivation to be a bit more careful with what we eat and drink.  And if the activity is truly enjoyable we will displace ourselves from the dining chair or sofa and be out doing activities and burning calories – a double win.

So lets try out things that we enjoy and then at least half of the battle is won, especially if there is a social element involving other people.

4 different things to try out

  1. Dance your way to fitness – if you follow Strictly you’ll notice all the pros look fit and the contestants get fitter too.  So salsa, waltz, disco, rave or tango yourself towards fitness
  2. Guided or Nordic walking is done in groups, is low impact, requires minimal equipment and will get you walking miles at a pace often slightly faster than your normal stroll.
  3. Martial Arts – this was my route back into fitness which I wrote about here.
  4. Geo-caching is a slightly offbeat approach to cross country walking involving looking for hidden “caches” and updating them with extra info – it can involve lots of driving too by keen geo-cachers will often explore an area and try and find all the local caches by foot


Try something new this month.

Day 7/8 – 30 day kickstart

Sleep like a baby

All the best eating and moving are wasted if we don’t sleep adequately.  7-8 hours a night is a pre-requisite for optimising your health and managing hormones to keep your health plan on track.  Using artificial light to extend wakinghyours, whilst the norm in society, plays havoc with the body’s circadian rhythms and blue light in particular, that thrown from televisions, phones and tablets is the worst for disrupting our sleep patterns and stressing the body.  Read more about the detrimental effect of blue lighting at Harvard Medical School. And you can read more about the effects of sleep deprivation (and too much sugar) in the book Lights Out. The book is out of print but still available second hand on amazon.


5 ways to sleep like a baby

  1. Develop a habit of sleep and try and “go down” at the same time each night, even weekends and preferably before 11pm
  2. Ensure your bedroom is really dark and cooler than the rest of your house and devoid of television, tablets and phones
  3. Wear as little as possible in bed, ideally nothing
  4. Avoid drinking anything in the last hour before sleeping (as you’re not wearing a nappy)
  5. Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed – a book is fine


Have a warm bath and take yourself off to bed early with a book.